How I Solved a Big Problem at Work Thanks to Behavior Design
Making change on an individual level can be complex enough, but trying to bring about a shift in a group can be even harder—which is exactly what Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker found.
Bert faced a big challenge with his organization.
Bert explains his challenge like this: “At the time, our organization was essentially a woefully underfunded public parks agency with a significant amount of land to care for, and we were just trying to figure out how we were going to survive financially.”
Times were tough, and gridlock prevailed.
Behavior Design Was a Game Changer.
So what happened?
The chance to work with BJ at a one-off Behavior Design Workshop changed everything for Bert. “BJ Fogg really did help galvanize our group, which was about eight or so leaders, and get us all aligned on one particular goal. BJ managed to capture the imagination of everyone, and he introduced us to his methods of Behavior Design—which, in turn, helped us realize that the way we were trying to problem solve was only complicating matters further.”
According to Bert, after the workshop, their group had a game plan, a strategy, an idea of the low-hanging fruit they could go after, and an understanding of the best use of their collective and individual time. “The very real impact we needed to get us to our goals was to have all of us leaders and stakeholders aligned and get us to a point where our programs, fee structure and, essentially, our bottom line was stable. And it was absolutely successful in putting us on the trajectory that has given us our most successful revenue programs and grown them up in many ways to be even more sophisticated than we thought was possible, while really serving our target audience.”
New methods, big results.
The way that Bert and his colleagues achieved this at the workshop was through the core models and methods of Behavior Design: an innovation method for ideation, clarifying specific actions, and a systematic process to identify a common goal while building consensus.
“In real time, we identified what the most powerful and impactful ways of reaching stakeholders were and influenced them to get this decision in front of the voters to actually stabilize and fund the parks system. And this was a very different question to what we’d been noodling around before. Before, we’d been asking these massive intangible things of ourselves like ‘How do we make more money?’ and instead, through the workshop, we were able to refine that to a more actionable question: How do we influence people toward a common goal of supporting a sustainable source of revenue for the park system?”
“We’d been through so many failed attempts at trying to come together and move forward—we’d really been through the wringer,” says Bert. But with Behavior Design he says it was like a lightbulb moment for the whole team. “BJ did a great job in developing consensus and buy-in around some shared goals, so that we still have diversity of thought but we’re all still going the same way,” he says.
Ongoing benefits from learning BJ Fogg’s methods.
Of course, with positive group change, there’s personal leadership stories within that good tide. “Working with BJ has definitely opened my eyes in many ways to better understand the world around me, the different types of management. And I think it's helped us remain competitive,” says Bert. “We have a better understanding of how to speak with public and private groups, and there’s this sense of really getting down to the key thing at hand and identifying where there's a mutual interest in mutual problem solving but the current framework isn’t allowing for it to happen. And then you break down that framework tactically and rebuild it better.”
Bert’s favorite takeaway? The magic wand. “I always keep a magic wand at my desk and still use it as a prompt sometimes—we all do! I always come back to that.”